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02.06.2017, 13:20
Veszprém happy as underdogs in semi-final against PSG
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SEMI-FINAL PREVIEW: Although Veszprém consider themselves the underdogs in their semi-final match against PSG, PSG have historically struggled against Veszprém in Champions League knockout matches.
 

Veszprém happy as underdogs in semi-final against PSG

Paris Saint-Germain Handball have already defeated Veszprém twice this season in the group phase of the competition. Indeed, for this reason, Veszprém consider themselves to be the underdogs in this match.

However, historically speaking, Telekom Veszprém have had greater success against PSG in Champions League knockout matches: Veszprém eliminated PSG in the quarter-finals in 2014 and 2015.

Thus, it seems as if previous records will not allow us to make a clear prediction of the outcome for the first semi-final of the VELUX EHF FINAL 2017.

  • It is Veszprém’s  fourth straight time participating in the EHF FINAL4, while PSG  are participating in the FINAL4 for their second straight time.
  • PSG defeated Veszprém in both encounters between the two teams in the group phase of the current season.
  • In both 2014 and 2015, Veszprém eliminated PSG from the quarter-finals.

VELUX EHF FINAL4 2017, SEMI-FINAL:

Telekom Veszprém (HUN) vs Paris Saint-Germain Handball (FRA)
Saturday 3 June, 15:15 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com.

 

On Saturday, the Hungarian champions will be making their fourth straight appearance in the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne, while PSG will be making their second straight appearance.

Neither side has ever won the EHF Champions League. However, Veszprém have been finalists three times: in 2002 against SC Magdeburg, in 2015 against FC Barcelona Lassa and in 2016 against KS Vive Tauron Kielce.

Last year, both sides were defeated by Kielce  in the FINAL4: Kielce defeated PSG in the semi-final, and Veszprém in the historic final, the latter of which was decided by penalty shoot-out.

“We know, what we have to do this time. But Veszprem know it too. This match will be fully equal. I really want to have this trophy – but I never would even speak about a final before the semi-final has not been started,” says PSG goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer, who has his fifth appearance in Cologne – and can win his fifth Champions league trophy in total. “So, maybe five is my lucky number this year.”

In 2010 and 2012, the five times World Champion was on the podium with his Saturday’s opponent Momir Ilic and the rest pf the THW Kiel squad. “It is funny that we have something like a reunion of former THW players. But if you are opponents, friendship ends for 60 minutes. We came here to win the trophy, but the way is steep,” said Ilic on Friday.

Currently he is equal with Barcelona’s Filip Jicha by 55 goals in the All-Time top scorer list of the VELUX EHF FINAL4. “And I guess, Momo will leave me below, as now I used to play defence much more than attack,” Jicha said about the race.

In the current season, both sides have already locked horns in Group A, which was dubbed the “group of death”. The French champions won both duels (29:28 away, and 28:24 at home) and ultimately the group in second place just ahead of the Lake Balaton-based side.

Despite this, the overall record of encounters between the teams favours Veszprém. In both 2014 and 2015, Laszlo Nagy & Co. defeated Paris in the quarter-finals. The upcoming duel will be first ever between the two teams to take place in the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

This season, in the knockout stages after the group phase, both powerhouses were unbeaten. However, while Paris tied their first match against HBC Nantes in the Last 16, and their second match against MOL-Pick Szeged in the quarter-finals, Veszprém beat HC Prvo plinarsko drustvo Zagreb twice in the Last 16, and won both of their matches against Montpellier HB in the quarter-final.

Star-studded line-ups

Three top-scorers who are still in the competition will face each other in this semi-final. German PSG left wing Uwe Gensheimer is top of the list, with 106 goals, and is tipped to become season top-scorer for the second time, after first doing so in 2011. Meanwhile his Danish teammate Mikkel Hansen, who was last seasons’ VELUX EHF Champions League top-scorer, is on 88 goals, as is Veszprém’s Serbian right back Momir Ilic.

 

PSG’s team of world class players will be led by the four IHF World Players of the Year: Nikola Karabatic (IHF World Player of the Year for France in 2007, 2014 and 2016), Mikkel Hansen (for Denmark in 2011 and 2015), Daniel Narcisse (for France in 2012) and Thierry Omeyer (for France in 2008).

Omeyer can win his fifth Champions League trophy, after previously winning it in 2003 with Montpellier, and in 2007, 2010 and 2012 with THW Kiel. Further, Karabatic can become the first male player ever to win the Champions League with four different clubs, as he has previously won it with Montpellier (2003), Kiel (2007) and Barcelona (2015). To top it all off, no fewer than seven PSG stars became World Champions in Paris last January.

On the other hand, Veszprém will be counting on three multiple Champions League winners: Ilic and Aron Palmarsson, both of whom won with Kiel in 2010 and 2012, and Laszlo Nagy, who won with Barcelona in 2005 and 2011.

This semi-final will also pit previous MVPs of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 against each other: Karabatic (MVP in 2015) and Palmarsson (MVP in 2014 and 2016).

Veszprém’s Croatian right back Marko Kopljar will be facing his former PSG teammates. Kopljar will leave Lake Balaton after this season for Füchse Berlin.

Veszprém happy to be underdogs

“We are the underdogs”, said Veszprém’s  Zsolt Sevinger, “but previous tournaments have proven that the underdogs can be winners: like Hamburg, Flensburg or Kielce. So, we like being the underdog in this semi-final.”

PSG manager Bruno Martini hopes that his side learnt their lesson from last year: “Last year we had our FINAL4 debut, and had to experience the event: now we should be ready. We come to Cologne to win the trophy, but this is the goal of all four teams, and all four of them have the same chance.”


TEXT: Björn Pazen/kc
 
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